By CLINT FOSTER
It was the Community Christian Warriors’ first padded practice of the season in Miller Stadium.
Sweat rolled down head coach Bryan Horton’s face, cooling his body from his energetic coaching style in the oppressive August heat.
When asked a question about his expectations for the upcoming season, he answered quite plainly:
“There’s no reason we don’t have our eye on the playoffs,” he said. “It’s hard to say whether state semifinals is the absolute goal, but this team’s talking about a state championship and there’s no reason not to. They’ve got the talent.
“As long as they don’t get hurt, they’ve got the talent to roll.”
Many might have scoffed at the Warriors’ ultimate goal three months ago.
After all, this was a team fresh off of a 1-9 season with mostly familiar faces.
But CCS refused to back down from a challenge.
They have grinded out a 5-4 season (1-1 in district) and are now one win away from the playoff berth they set out to achieve.
The Willow Park Trinity Christian Academy Eagles (6-3, 1-1) roll into Mineral Wells today for a win-or-go-home matchup to crown the second place team in TCAF District 3 and punch that squad’s ticket to the postseason.
CCS will no doubt be looking to make history in front of their home crowd at historic Miller Stadium at 7 p.m.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is football.
Exceeding expectations and making history have been par for the course of this Warriors team lately. While most six-man teams rely heavily on pass-happy spread offenses, the Warriors have been committed to a punishing, smashmouth form of football that depends on a strong running game to wear down opponents.
But that has not stopped them from scoring. Last week, the Warriors earned their first district win over El Paso Immanuel Christian (3-6, 0-2) in a neutral site shootout in Sterling City, 102-70. The 102 points were the most any CCS team has ever scored in a single game in school history.
The offense was unstoppable, as the Warriors racked up 572 yards rushing behind the masterful lead-blocking of Sammy Brazeal and the top two rushers in all of TCAF.
Freshman sensation Levi Knowles scampered for 331 yards and six touchdowns on 23 carries and senior leader Isaiah Brazeal reeled off 13 carries for 155 yards and four touchdowns.
Sammy added another 11 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Just another day at the office for the CCS running game.
Horton said the blocking has never been better.
“Anything less would be somewhat of a disappointment running behind three seniors on the offensive line,” he said. “They really didn’t have an answer for Sammy.
“They were screaming from their sidelines, ‘They’re going to follow 82. They’re going to give the ball to 82.’
“As a coach, usually when you hear the other team calling out your plays, it kind of makes you nervous, but everything (worked).”
And when CCS got tired of running the ball, they passed at will as well.
Taking some time off from killing with his legs, Isaiah was a perfect 7-for-7 passing for 142 yards and another two passing touchdowns into the arms of his cousin Sammy.
CCS has certainly hit its collective stride and it could not have come at a better time.
In TCA, the Warriors face a school with a significantly larger enrollment and a well-coached, talented roster.
Offensively, Horton the Eagles are similar to Immanuel, but simply better.
They are a team that’s at home in the spread offense and relies on speed and quickness from playmakers, which could present an issue for the CCS defense.
But as has been the case many times this year, the Warriors will look to win in a shootout. Horton said the TCA defense is bigger and faster than Immanuel’s, but they tend to hang back in zone coverage to defend the passing game and dare teams to run. This plays right into the Warriors’ hands.
“We are who we are,” Horton said of his team’s physical identity. “(We know) what we do well and what we don’t do well. I feel real good about being able to beat a three-man rush.
“The tough part is getting blockers down field (but we’ve) been working on it.”
The CCS-TCA matchup has all the makings of a close, memorable game and with the stakes so high, it only makes it more of a must-see.
On top of playoff berths and playing as underdogs, a win against TCA would secure the Warriors’ first winning season since 2010.
Horton said he could not be more proud of what his team has accomplished.
“It’s been exciting,” he said. “As far as football-playing schools, you’re talking about one of the smallest in Texas.
“We’re in a district with some big schools. You have to be proud of a group of guys that came in and (play as a team).
“To me, I love football because I don’t think there’s a better sport for teaching teamwork to young men.
“You have to be a team to win. That’s just all there is to it.
“Win or lose Friday night, what they’ve accomplished is more than anybody outside the four walls of our school would have expected.
“I think that’s a testament to the seniors’ leadership this year. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”